Nate Thompson celebrates Zack MacEwen’s eventual third-period game-winning goal, as the Flyers impressively rallied to hand the Hurricanes just their second loss of the season. (Karl B DeBlaker/AP Photo)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 11: PHI 2, CAR 1 – Banking On The Go

Now that was quite the Raleigh. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, in comeback fashion over the Carolina Hurricanes. A contest that seemed certain to get away from the Flyers through forty minutes completely flipped on its head in the third, where they scored both of their goals to stun the league’s best team in front of their home crowd.

Heading into the third period on Friday night, the Flyers didn’t exactly have a lot going for them. Maybe the only positive spin was that they were lucky to enter the third period only down a goal thanks to a successful offsides challenge, some lucky bounces, and yet another tremendous effort from Carter Hart. The team hadn’t scored in six straight periods. Their power-play was a nightmare, giving up more scoring chances (3) than they generated (2) by game’s end. The 10-1-0 Carolina Hurricanes entered the night perfect at home and didn’t intend on letting up. Combine all of this with a gauntlet November schedule and Wednesday’s shutout loss versus Toronto, and the most pessimistic fans were already starting to worry about a spiral.

But after being torched territorially in the first and roughly breaking even in the second, the Flyers delivered arguably their best period of the season with the game on the line. They racked up just a shade under two-thirds of the Corsi and Expected Goals shares. After generating 1.38 expected goals in the first two periods, the Flyers created 1.71 of them in the final stanza. They matched their shots on goal total from the first two frames (15) in the third alone. This wasn’t a team merely riding score effects to a decent edge. In one of their toughest situations of the season to date, the Flyers didn’t just survive but thrived.

Of course, they needed to turn that dominance into tangible goals to turn the tables on the Hurricanes. In an attempt to spark his team’s offense, Alain Vigneault made the first line changes to the top nine all season before the game. Oskar Lindblom moved up to second-line left wing while dropping Joel Farabee to line three. The former continues to do everything but finish, just missing on a one-timer in the second. But the latter did just that, thanks to a heady play by Scott Laughton, who recognized a forward Josh Leivo was back on defense and threw a bank pass in the perfect area for Farabee to burst in and eventually beat Frederik Andersen five-hole. A few minutes later, an extra effort by Patrick Brown, who spent five years in the Carolina organization, saved a play that eventually ended in Zack MacEwen deflecting in the eventual game-winner.

Whether or not the Flyers have something special in this team remains to be seen; seven wins (and nine games with at least one point) out of twelve is strong, but not spectacular. But this group is already achieving some special things. For starters, the Flyers have now handed two teams (Carolina and Edmonton) their only home loss. Washington’s only regulation home loss also came at the Flyers’ doing.

Last year’s team spent so much time spinning their tires, to the point where winning consecutive games became daunting. Of course, in the calendar year of 2020, the Flyers only lost consecutive games twice; their first two games of the year (January 2, 4, & 7, including an OT loss in Raleigh on the seventh) and Games 3 and 4 of the Islanders series. This year’s team is much closer to that level so far; a perfect 5-0-0 record after losses, one of just five teams (including 1-0-0 Carolina) perfect in games after defeats.

Carter Hart continues to impress as well, showing no signs of slowing down with another incredible performance. Hart dove, slid, stretched, and lunged his way in front of 39 of Carolina’s 40 shots; a fluky mid-air deflection by Steven Lorentz midway through the second was his only blemish. If he’s this good now, imagine how much more comfortable he’ll be when the Flyers inevitably snap out of the 4.37 5-on-5 shooting percentage that has infected Philadelphia’s offense over their last seven games. For reference, the lowest shooting percentage for any team in the last full(ish) season was 6.11%; and that belonged to a historically awful 2019-20 Detroit team. Even the biggest skeptics know the Flyers are much better than them (as is everybody, save for maybe Arizona).

Philadelphia’s underlying numbers as a team (49.45% Corsi – 20th, 47.65% Expected Goals – 23rd) may paint the picture of a team treading water. What the Flyers have already accomplished feels like something more than that. What comes out of the season, of course, remains an unknown. But the Flyers have shown that they are capable of special performances. Not much means more than a come-from-behind regulation win against a divisional rival. Clearing that bar, even if isn’t the highest one, does just that.

Lindies

With Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis potentially returning as soon as tonight, the Flyers needed to put someone on waivers to ensure they’ll be cap compliant whenever Hayes is activated from LTIR. Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, a healthy scratch in 4 of the last 6 games, was the player of choice. It’s sad how fast Aubé-Kubel has fallen off from his excellent 2019-20 form when he looked like a tremendous bottom-sixer of the future. Over the last season (and the first few games of this year), he’s been far too undisciplined and his scoring has dried up. That may be enough to sneak him through waivers and to the AHL. But maybe a team lacking forward depth takes a flier (insert rimshot here) on the 25-year old.

Some of Hart’s best saves of the night didn’t come at 5-on-5. The Flyers held Carolina’s power-play off the scoreboard in five attempts, but that had more to do with Hart than the skaters in front of him. Hart’s diving save on Andrei Svechnikov’s last-second chance in the second period was perhaps his biggest of the game, even though Claude Giroux’s outstretched block might’ve made the difference (side note; wow, was Svechnikov flying all night). But he also stopped a last-second breakaway in the first period from Jordan Staal exiting the penalty book after a brutal Flyers 5-on-3, then denied Derek Stepan on a 2-on-1 after a giveaway by Giroux on a third period PP.

Philadelphia hasn’t scored in the first period since October 28th at Vancouver, a six-game swoon. The good news is they’ve only conceded one goal in those first periods — Brock McGinn’s first-minute tip-in on November 4 in Pittsburgh. It’s not necessarily due to a lack of effort; before Friday, the Flyers had outshot and out-chanced (by Expected Goals) their opponent in three straight first periods. After everything was finding twine early in the year, finishing has been quite the challenge for the Flyers over the last two weeks.

Don’t look now, but here’s Rasmus Ristolainen’s expected goals percentage in the last three games; 76.75%, 63.97%, 58.69%. He led Flyers defenders in that department in all three games, also registering two assists. By Corsi and Expected Goals, Ristolainen is just a tick under breakeven for the year (high 49% range). And if you’re a “goals are all that matter” person, Ristolainen’s even in on-ice 5v5 goal differential (5-5). Anything can happen in three games, but the Ristolainen of the last week is the one Chuck Fletcher was expecting.

Speaking of unexpected performances from Flyers right-handed defensemen; guess whose shot MacEwen deflected in for the game-winner? None other than Justin Braun, who now has eight points in a dozen games. It’s actually only Braun’s second-most potent offensive outburst as a Flyer over a twelve-game stretch; Braun had nine points (1 goal, 8 assists) from January 21-February 22, including two three assist performances.

Last season, Carter Hart and Martin Jones allowed the second and third most goals saved below expected, respectively (per Moneypuck.com). This year? Well, the picture’s just a little different.

Since Carolina’s backup Antti Raanta is injured and they’re on the front half of a back-to-back, it’s probable that Alex Lyon makes his first start as a Hurricane tonight. Before this year, Lyon had spent his entire five-year pro career in the Flyers organization after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Lyon played in 22 games across four seasons for the Flyers; though perhaps his most famous moment came at the expense of the Hurricanes organization, when he stopped 94 of 95 shots in a five-overtime win in an AHL playoff game in 2018.

Speaking of goalies, it’s fitting the first two-time winner of the POG Starter Jacket is Starter Hart!

POG Standings:

Starter Hart – 2

Risto, Coots, Jones, Honey Badger, Unknown – 1

Make sure to check out me, Emma, Gavin, Trey in our second weekly hockey show!

A belated congratulations to the Flyers Warriors for bringing home three championships last weekend (with some of the Flyers players cheering them on). It’s a truly special program that “provides injured & disabled US Military Veterans opportunities to play hockey,” per their Twitter bio. The Flyers are releasing a mini-documentary of sorts on the program later this month; make sure to check out the trailer beforehand.

3 Stars

3rd: Steven Lorentz (CAR) – Goal (2)

2nd: Zack MacEwen (PHI) – Goal (1)

1st: Carter Hart (PHI) – .975 SV% (39 Saves/40 Shots), 1 GA on 4.67 xGA

Next

PHI: 11/13, 8 PM @ DAL (4-6-2, L2)

CAR: 11/13, 7:30 PM vs. STL (8-2-2, OTL1)

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Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 and via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise stated